In order to keep your community’s trees healthy and structurally sound, it’s important to follow proper pruning and planting protocols. Here are a few of our best tips to help you keep your trees thriving all summer long.

Importance of tree pruning

  • Remove rubbing branches.
    Branches that consistently rub against each other can cause open wounds on a tree. Over time, it can become difficult for the tree to seal repetitive damage, resulting in permanent injury to the tree.

  • Encourage single leader growth in younger trees for a more stable mature tree in the future.
    This process is species-dependent. Some species just don’t have single leader structure - consult an expert if necessary.

  • Reduce crowding between neighboring trees.
    This encourages healthy tree growth.

  • Remove deadwood.
    Deadwood can break off easily during heavy winds and rain events, potentially causing harm to people and damage to property. Large quantities of deadwood can also prevent trees from assuming their full shape by blocking sunlight to the tree.


  • Avoid pruning the following species during the growing season to reduce the likelihood of injury due to fungus and parasites:

    • Oaks (prune in winter or early spring),

    • Elms (prune in early spring),

    • Fruit trees (prune in winter).

  • To avoid tearing, practice the 3-cut method. Remember, pruning cuts should follow the branch collar. Example below.

Branch collar & Three- Cut Method  (pc: Colorado State Extension Office )

Branch collar & Three- Cut Method (pc: Colorado State Extension Office)

  • Pruning Tools:

    • It’s best to use a hand pruner, arborist’s hand saw, or chain saw to prune.

    • Do not use pruning paint or coatings on the cut, except for special circumstances (consult an expert if necessary).

Tips for Successful Tree Planting

  • Plant them high so they don’t die!
    Trees are often planted too deep to thrive. When planting, find the young tree’s root flare and plant at or slightly below the flare. When trees are planted too deep, the roots grow up and around the trunk of the tree, as they seek the upper layers of soil for sufficient oxygen. If your tree has a ‘telephone pole’ base, it is planted too deep! Remember to use stakes to help support young trees until they have sufficient roots to keep them upright on windy days.

“Telephone pole tree” - Planted too deep

“Telephone pole tree” - Planted too deep

  • Compost and mulch the base of the tree when planting.
    Mulch rings help retain moisture around the base of the tree and keep weeds and other competitors from restricting the tree’s growth. Mulch should be mounded, but dip in at the base of the tree to avoid girdling roots.

Example of Girdling Roots

Example of Girdling Roots

Successful Root Flare

Successful Root Flare

Learn More

R/M’s environmental team is available if you have any questions about proper tree care. Contact one of our environmental experts today.

About the Author


Christy Poniewaz

Christy is a biologist with experience in conservation, environmental science, land management restoration, wetland ecology, GIS, and arboriculture.  As a part of R/M’s environmental team, Christy’s work includes wetland delineations and storm water modeling. Christy is also a certified interpretive guide and certified beekeeper.  She has been with R/M since May 2019.

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